Sunday, March 3, 2013

Third Sunday in Lent

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9
Today’s Reflection:
The Lenten season coincides with the start of gardening season - at least in my part of Texas. In recent months fruit trees have been pruned and garden beds readied for planting. Part of that preparation requires clearing out last year’s dead plants and fertilizing the ones that remain from previous years. The garden simply does not function well without this care. The passages today consider preparation we have to do in order to be faithful followers of Christ.

One of the most familiar passages in Isaiah, 55:1-9, has always comforted me in times of trouble and troubled me in times of comfort. Verses eight and nine provide a pathway to peace when we are overwhelmed by the nature of a circumstance and desperately seek answers. Any other time I read the passage I wonder if it is not just God’s trump card keeping us submissive pawns as he plays with his creation. His ways and thoughts are so much higher we will never understand. Many other passages that attempt to explain God’s actions offer us a chance to understand at some point in the future: these verses withhold such hope.

Fortunately these verses in Isaiah are not the only ones in the Bible that address the rationale for God’s actions. The passage in 1 Corinthians cites numerous instances when people (mis)behaved and God smote. We are encouraged to pay close attention to God’s actions in our lives because in even the most troubling time for us, God offers salvation from the trial. Much like the passage in Isaiah, we commonly turn to verse thirteen when we face overwhelming situations, and fortunately, it gives us the sustaining comfort we need. The closer we draw to him in his actions, the better chance we have.

Jesus was often surrounded by seekers - people with theological questions attempting to get the answers. In the passage in Luke they asked about the sins of some who had been executed by Pilate. Contemporary teaching informed that those who suffered suffered in response to the sin and their degree of suffering reflected the degree of sin. Jesus refutes this with several other examples and a parable. In an era of sustenance farming, the farmer [famer = God] could not afford to have a fruitless tree [tree = sinful humanity] in his orchard and ordered such a tree be cut down, but the gardener (gardener = Jesus) intervened and asked for a chance to work the soil [work the soil = Christ’s ministry] and fertilize [fertilizer = knowledge] to see if it would turn fruitful. We do not know the outcome for the tree. The outcome for us remains undetermined as well. As we have been loved by Christ and learned about his ways and expectations, our fruitfulness still varies. Some have born plentiful fruit and others have remained barren.

Many passages in the Bible offer comfort and create concern as they lead us to reflect on our relationship with God. The passages today, appropriate for the Lenten season, insist that we examine our relationship with God and determine what we need to do to make it the relationship God desires.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts.